England will clash against Denmark today in a semi final game which could lead to England playing in their first major tournament final since 1966. Denmark will pose challenges which England may not have previously faced in this tournament and this could bring many challenges to the English.
Denmark are the best in the air that are still in the tournament. They win 21.6 aerial duels per game. Compare this with the second placed team in this statistic, England, who average 16 successful duels per game. This shows Denmark’s aerial dominance and this is something that England haven’t been properly tested against. The closest thing to this type of challenge is in the game versus the Czech Republic who were one of the tallest teams in the tournament from the start. However, Denmark are much more threatening in possession than the Czechs were even with the absence of Eriksen therefore making them a much more varied threat.
Players like Harry Maguire will have to be on top form in order to ensure set pieces do not become an issue for England. The previously mentioned Czechs failed to do this and ended up conceding off a corner from Denmark. Maguire is arguably England’s best player in the air given his height, bulk and heading ability which will all be very useful for England. There are weaknesses in England’s defensive set up from set pieces which could be exploited however. If Denmark manage to get a ball past presumably Harry Kane operating in front of the 6-yard box, their strongest headers of the ball could attack a weaker core of Stones as Stones has lower aerial numbers than other defenders like Maguire which could give them plenty of opportunities and hence, win the game.
Denmark are not just a tall, aerially dominant team and we can see this in the stats. Denmark have had the most shots on target of any team still left in the tournament. They create many chances through their creative attackers. Damsgard has done a fantastic job of filling in the massive shoes of Eriksen. He averages 9 passes into the final third per game. This is an amazing, consistent level of creativity for Denmark which means they can quickly transition and break down defenses. They showed their threat on the counter against the Czech Republic too after they created 4 chances from counter attacks in the second half alone. England will need to be wary of this threat especially considering the fact that England will most likely dominate possession. Players like Rice will have to deal with threats which haven’t been as prevalent in this tournament as only really Germany have been as good in transition but due to Southgate’s changes, England nullified these threats generally.
Denmark offers a varied threat which hasn’t previously been faced by England. Teams like Germany of course presented their own challenges however those challenges could be argued to be fixed in more simple ways like matching up Germany’s 3-4-3. It will be difficult to stop the majority of Denmark’s threats as they are so varied in nature. They can break you down if you sit deep, they can punish an overextending team with quick counter attacks and they can score set piece goals to quickly turn the tides of the fixture. Southgate will need to be smart but potentially the result against Ukraine fills the team with confidence which could see them through the tie.